I hate that I have to write this post.
Every time I hear another news story about a shooting in a school or movie theatre or church I think, ‘I should write this post. We have to know how to keep kids safe’.
I’ve talked myself out of it several times thinking that the latest shooting would be the last one or it isn’t common enough for parents to worry about or it’s just too hard of an issue to talk to kids about, but it seems like we hear about another mass shooting every day and, as a parent, I want to be sure my kids and yours are safe.
Surviving a shooting is something that my family has had to learn about first hand.
We were lucky. We weren’t in the line of fire but we know the fear of hearing that there is an active shooter in our community and not knowing where he was going to strike next.
A few years ago I was on a school field trip with my oldest son. We were at a local park down the street when we heard the word. There was a shooter at the school down the street. Several kids had been shot. The shooter was still at large and may be targeting school groups.
That was all the information we had.
It honestly took a few minutes for the news to set in for me but as we walked back to the school, huddled in groups with the students in the center, still oblivious to the situation, each adult looking nervously over their shoulder I felt the weight of what was happening.
The school shuffled the kids inside the building and locked the gates, leaving all the parent chaperones outside. It was a lock down situation so I wasn’t allowed to take my son with me (which to this day makes me angry) so I waited with the other moms outside the school, hoping that we wouldn’t have to be the first line of defense if our school ended up being the next one under attack.
Our school was minutes away from the school that had been attacked. It was the school my son very nearly ended up attending. We later heard that several second graders had been shot in the shoulder. My son was in second grade. A shooter had hopped the fence during recess and opened fire.
Our community was lucky. The children who were injured survived. The shooter was later caught and convicted. Despite that, it had rocked my family’s sense of security.
Teaching Kids what to do in an Active Shooter Situation
My kids were taking karate classes at the time and their teacher did an amazing job of making them feel safe after the shooting and being proactive about teaching them how to survive when there is an active shooter. She had some great tips and every time there is a shooting we review them as a family.
You don’t have any time to hesitate when you are in an active shooter situation. Teaching your kids what to do ahead of time can help prevent them from freezing if they find themselves in a situation when they need to act.
Run in a zig zag formation.
In an active shooter situation, your first goal should be to get away, if possible. If you hear gunshots, it’s time to run to safety. Teach your kids to run in a zig zag formation as they run away. It’s counter-intuitive because it slows you down but it makes it hard for a shooter to hit you. We have practiced this at home and my kids think it’s a fun game but if they are ever faced with a situation where they need to do it, my hope is they will remember our funny little drills and it will help them stay alive.
Make sure you emphasize that your kids should leave their things behind. Don’t worry about grabbing a backpack or anything else they have with them. Those things are replaceable and they will waste valuable time. Just run. People are more important than things.
If you can’t run, hide.
Getting away is the ultimate goal but if that isn’t possible, teach your kids to find a good hiding spot. Kids can hide in tight spaces that adults may not think of looking. Bullets can go through just about anything though so an out of the way hiding space or a hiding space behind something heavy like a metal object is best (it won’t stop a bullet but it may slow one down).
If you need to fight, anything goes.
The absolute last resort, especially for kids, is to fight. Kids are often hesitant to fight adults, not just because they feel outmatched but because they think they are going to get in trouble. I tell my kids that if someone is trying to hurt them, anything goes. They can kick, bite, throw things, anything they need to do to get away safety. Tell them to yell as loud as they can while doing this.
My kids’ karate teacher spent an entire lesson teaching them that they could kick adults in the privates if they needed to and showing them how to twist and wiggle to get away. Practice with your kids . . . not the kicking and biting but the wiggling. Hold onto your kids and try and prevent them from getting away and tell them to wiggle and squirm and try and get away. It’s hard to hang onto a squirming kid. Once they get away from you, have them practice running away as fast as they can.
Teach your Kids to Listen
This may be the most important lesson of all. If you are with your kids and facing an active shooter situation, they need to understand how important it is to listen to you. While it would be nice if kids listened to you all the time, the fact is that just isn’t going to happen. Consider having a code word or phrase so your kids know that listening is not optional. You are trying to keep them safe.
How Moms can Prepare
I definitely don’t think we need to live in fear but it does help to be prepared. The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence by Gavin de Becker is a valuable resource. The book emphasizes that “True fear is a gift. Unwarranted fear is a curse.” and teaches how to tell the difference between the two.
Everybody Feels Scared!The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From ViolenceBrave Moms, Brave Kids: A Battle Plan for Raising HeroesBraveRampage: The Social Roots of School ShootingsBe Brave Little OneWhy Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School ShootersThe Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why
You May Also Like